Association Affairs

Climate Science Milestones Leading To 1965 PCAST Report

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  27 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6264, pp. 1046
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6264.1046

1824: French mathematician Joseph Fourier reasons that Earth would be colder in the absence of an atmosphere, describing the foundations of the greenhouse effect.

1856: Eunice Foote's unpublished research on the absorption of radiant energy by carbon dioxide and other gases in the atmosphere is read at the 10th AAAS Annual Meeting in Albany, New York.

1861: Irish physicist John Tyndall finds that gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane trap heat efficiently, whereas oxygen and nitrogen gases do not.

1896: Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish physicist, chemist, and 1903 Nobel Prize winner, estimates that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would raise Earth's temperature by 5 to 6 degrees Celsius, averaged across all latitudes.

1938: English engineer Guy Stewart Callendar determines that a half-century of fuel combustion has added 150,000 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

1957: Former AAAS president Roger Revelle and Austrian geochemist Hans Suess show that absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide by the ocean is slower than previously believed.

1958: American chemist Charles David Keeling begins recording concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, confirming an increasing trend in atmospheric CO2. Observations at Mauna Loa continue today.

1965: The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on environmental pollution to President Lyndon B. Johnson cautions that the accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels would “almost certainly cause significant changes” to the environment.

(Sources: The Office of Science and Technology Policy, American Institute of Physics, Scripps Institution of Oceanography)

Navigate This Article